Algonquin Escape

As I write this, I am sitting on an empty bag of firewood with my back up against the base of a tall, twisted tree. I’m writing in a notebook, my cursive letters tripping over each other like the tangled roots of the trees around me. By the time you read this, I will have typed my words; but I don’t want to think about that in this moment. Right now, I am content where I am—on a hill facing a lake, listening as loons cry out and waves gently lap against the rocky shoreline.

I go to school in a big city, and I love the skyscrapers and bustle. But I also love where I am now; camping in Algonquin Park. Here, tall glass buildings are replaced by soaring trees and the craziness of the city is replaced by, well, the solitude of fleeting nothingness. I say fleeting because I will not be here forever—tomorrow, my family and I will pack up our tent and canoe back to where we started out from. But for this moment, I am here, and I am happy.

Now, a week later, I am on my couch, typing the words I wrote as I sat against the tree at my campsite. I could write about my camping trip all day, but I think photos capture the essence better. Since I’ve been getting into photography recently, I brought my camera on the trip. I wanted to capture a bit of everything; the big lakes which reflect the trees in the water, and the small branches and water lilies. 

These photos bring me back to where I began this post: breathing in the scent of campfire mixed with pine. In that moment, I was peaceful and content. Even if you’ve never been to Algonquin Park, I hope looking at these photos of the floating fields of lily pads and fiery flames of a nighttime fire fill you with that same feeling.


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An Ode to Summer

Was it just four months ago that I stood in my room at university, surrounded by boxes, having finished my last exam? It feels like it was both five years ago and only yesterday that I was celebrating the end of my first year of university. After moving all my boxes back into my house, I started printing resumés and applying to summer jobs. I ended up accepting a position as a summer student at a local not-for-profit in the communications department. I’m so glad that I did. I loved spending my summer interviewing and writing, especially because it’s been for a cause that I really believe in. I’ve also made some amazing friends through my job.

Although this was my first full-time job, I still made a lot of time this summer to have fun. I took trips downtown to visit friends. I tried Thai food for the first time. I saw two concerts. I visited Starbucks countless times (so many, in fact, that I wound up getting a Starbucks Gold card in the mail). I laughed until I cried and smiled until it felt etched on my face.

This summer, spans of working 9-5 were interspersed with weekends at the cottage. There, I saw beautiful sunsets, roasted marshmallows over the campfire, kayaked through calm waters and fell off the tube with my sister, laughing hysterically. Cottage weekends meant unplugging from the Internet and tackling the stack of books in my “to-read” pile; they also meant lying out in the sun on the dock and eating ice cream.

Being home from school meant that I reunited with many of my friends from high school, and visited some friends who I haven’t seen in a long time (in one case, since high school graduation). It’s always nice to reconnect with old friends, reminisce about memories and create new ones.

I also turned 19 this summer (and wrote about all of the things I’ve learned this far in my life). My friends at work threw me a little surprise party, complete with photos of cats, streamers and a chocolate cake. I also celebrated with my family—we went bowling, and I was terrible but had tons of fun anyways—and spent a day with my friends from school, eating and shopping downtown.

And in the midst of the having fun and working, this summer I found time to focus on my own projects. I’m really proud of the blog posts I’ve written this summer and the growth that my blog has experienced. As always, I feel fortunate that I have people reading, and responding to, my posts. I’ve also had some blog posts published in the Huffington Post this summer, which is always exciting! Beyond my blog, I’ve been writing and editing my first novel. As I wrote in a previous post, I’ve started waking up early to write and edit before I go to work which I’ve really been enjoying.

I wanted to write a post about the summer because I want to be able to remember all of the memories in a few months, when it’s snowing so hard that outside my window is a sheet of white. I want to remember the time my friends and I tried a vegan restaurant for lunch; I want to remember eating ice cream by the lake and playing board games with my family (although I may not want to remember the time my dad creamed me at Scrabble, getting a seven letter word on his very first turn).

There’s a quote which goes, “And all at once, summer collapsed into fall.” I don’t see this transition happening, as the quote says, all at once—I see it occurring gradually. The weather will eventually get cooler and the leaves will start to turn. When they inevitably do, I will remember all of the fun times I have had this summer—and look forward to everything that autumn will bring.


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Spring Nostalgia

There is a certain nostalgia, I think, in the way the seasons turn. We revel in the autumn trees, red, orange and yellow like a campfire captured in leaves; then one day the leaves are brown and falling to the ground, leaving us with the memory of the fiery forests that stood what seems like only yesterday. We sometimes forget the true beauty of the season around us—fall leaves, freshly blanketed snow, flowers beginning to blossom or the feverish heat of the summer sun—until the weather shifts and we are left with memories.

This spring I was struck by the simple elegance of the flowers that sprouted around my house. My wonder is nicely summarized in this passage from The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood: “There is something subversive about this garden… a sense of buried things bursting upwards, wordlessly, into the light, as if to point, to say: Whatever is silenced will clamour to be heard, though silently.” I love those words because they paint flowers as more than delicate pink petals on green flesh. Flowers are a subtle sign of nature’s strength; that a seed can be buried and then grow bravely, deliberately, through the soil and towards the sky.

Back in April, I published a post of photos on a whim; I had just arrived home to find a colourful sky and flowers still with raindrops from a storm. I loved photographing the flowers so much that I continued throughout the spring. Now, although I am enjoying the warm summer weather I find myself missing the bright yellows and painted pinks. In case you, like me, are having a nostalgic moment for the beauty of spring, here are some of my favourite photos of flowers; bursting up, wordlessly, to show themselves to the world, if only until the seasons inevitably turn.


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Fleeting Moments

A bowl of citrus fruits was smeared across the sky, deep oranges and smoky yellows blended together like paint on an artist’s canvas. Then someone threw a shower of glitter on top of the fiery mosaic sky. It was a long weekend at the cottage and, over the lake, fireworks were exploding into the sunset. I wanted to run and grab my camera, but I paused. Could I have captured the beauty of the sky, without the camera altering the colours? Maybe. But I was less confident in my ability to change the camera’s settings and press the shutter at the perfect moment to photograph the fireworks. So I stayed by the window and watched not through the lens of a camera, but with my eyes.

The next day, I was struck by a similar situation. It was a sunny afternoon, the kind that feels too good to be true. I was in a kayak, enjoying the rippling water in the otherwise calm bay. In front of me there was a pathway of sorts, an arch of tree trunks bending over the water. I passed a cluster of lily pads as I paddled under the hanging trees. The trees, the water and the sun gave way to pure serenity. If I had my camera, could I have taken a photo that reflected the absolute silence of the bay? Could I have immortalized, in pixels, the clear water and the reaching branches? Maybe, but maybe not. I stopped wishing I had brought my camera and started to soak in the scene, sans technology.

Believe it or not, the evening after the fireworks display, the same thing happened again. The sunset had come and gonepink this night, not orangeand outside it was pitch black. But then the sky lit up. Someone was setting off a spectacular firework display from a raft. Red lights flew into the sky; then green, then what appeared to be purple. Then dazzling white lights erupted, stark against the black backdrop of the evening. This time, I grabbed my phone. I didn’t worry about taking the “perfect shot”; I used Instagram’s “Boomerang” feature to capture short videos that reversed themselves. In my videos, the fireworks exploded spectacularly and then retreated into themselves.

Oftentimes the moments we want to saviour are fleeting. We sometimes have a tendency to try to make those moments immortal; in other words, fool ourselves into thinking that we can make them last forever. Taking a photo is one way to make a moment last forever, but there are so many things that a photo doesn’t capture: the scent of fresh air on the open lake; the feeling of complete calmness when the blue sky fades into a painter’s palette; the screeching sound that the fireworks make as they soar into the sky, and the crackling sound they make as they fall.

Sunsets fade to black. People run out of fireworks. Moments end: this is an inevitable fact of life. But the fact that these moments exist at all is what makes life worth living. Because the sun rises the morning after it sets; because there is another firework-filled holiday to look forward to in the future. If we capture a beautiful moment, however imperfectly with a camera or however hastily with our eyes or other senses, we can find something to remember it by. And maybe, then, in a way, we really can make a moment last forever.


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Time Flies

As I “move on” in my education, so to speak—graduate from high school, finish my first year of university—I am beginning to realize just how true the saying “It goes by in the blink of an eye” really is. I entered high school almost five years ago. I remember getting off the bus and standing with my friends as we waited for the doors to be opened and for our time in high school to officially begin. I blinked and high school whizzed past. Before I knew it, I was wearing a robe and cap, walking across a stage to receive my high school diploma.

Eight months ago, I gathered my belongings into suitcases and moved into a university dorm. It felt like there was an eternal distance between me and my family and friends. But then I began to make new friends, and I realized that I love my program. I blinked, and my first year of university has flown past. I am shaking my head as I type this—because I can’t believe that I am mere weeks away from being one quarter of my way to my Bachelor of Journalism degree.

It’s a cliché saying, but I’ll say it anyways: It feels like just yesterday I was starting university. I can still feel the butterflies in my stomach that sprouted the morning of my program orientation. And I can still feel the excitement of those butterflies fading as the day went on and I met people who are now among my best friends. Time is funny in that way—how, as to quote C.S. Lewis, nothing changes day by day, but everything is different when you look back.

In my journalism program, we created private blogs to post our work onto. For a recent assignment, we had to edit the blog and ensure it was well organized. As I scrolled through all of my work from this year, I felt so proud of how far I have come. There is an obvious difference between the first article I wrote and my most recent article; not only have I become more confident in multimedia, such as photography and audio recordings, but I have also grown more comfortable with “streeter interviews” and conducting interviews in general.

It’s not just my work in journalism of which I am proud. This year I became a stronger essay writer after a particularly tough politics course first semester. I also learned a lot about subjects that I’ve never taken before. Before this year I had thought, for example, that my grade 10 history course would be the last history course I ever took. But then course selections rolled around, and, when faced with either microeconomics or world history since 1945, I selected the latter. It ended up being super interesting and useful, since Cold War history comes up in most of the politics courses I am taking.

It’s weird to think about my life at this time last year. In April 2016, I had just had my wisdom teeth taken out, and I was preparing for a school model United Nations conference. I think I had accepted my university offer at this time last year, though I didn’t know I’d be living on-campus, nor that I’d receive a scholarship which covered my tuition costs. University felt like it was so far off in the future, even though it was only months away. But then I blinked, and an entire year went by.

A lot of the time, when people talk about life going by in the blink of an eye they mention regrets that they have. The thing is, if I were to go back and talk to my high-school self, I wouldn’t tell myself to change anything. In high school, I was aware that time was flying by, so I made a conscious effort to make the most of my four years. They still went by quickly, but they were full of moments that I still hold close to my heart. I hope, three years from now, I will be able to say the same thing about my experience at university. If this year is any indication, it’s going to go by quickly—but it’s also going to be an amazing journey.


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One Journal, 366 Days

“Day one of 366.”

This is the first sentence of my 2016 journal. In all honesty, I can’t remember why I decided to start a journal this year. Then again, I didn’t remember that this year was a leap year until I re-read that first sentence, so perhaps my memory in these matters shouldn’t be trusted. I digress…

I’ve been reading through old journal entries a lot recently as my first semester of university — and the year 2016 — come to a close. Up until June, when I graduated from high school, I wrote daily entries. During the summer and my first semester of university, my entries became more spaced out; I wrote one today that was my first in over two weeks. At different points in the year, writing in my journal meant different things to me. Some days it was a place to reflect on what had happened during the day; others, it was a place to outline my dreams for the future.

When I want to relive a day, or remember something that happened, I’ll immediately flip through my journal to find that entry. I love re-reading old entries, because they remind me of the smaller details surrounding big moments in my life. Of course I remember the excitement I felt on the day I was accepted into my first-choice university program; but when I go back to my journal entry from that day, I remember other details, like that I stayed home sick the day before, and that I bought my prom dress the day after.

This year was a really awesome one for me, with lots of exciting moments and milestones. Thinking back about some of those moments, I know I have written emotional journal entries about them. One of my favourite pages in my journal is the day when I got a phone call from the president of my university to inform me that I had been selected as a recipient of a special entrance scholarship. It was the day after prom, but I didn’t write about prom for an entire page because I was so excited about the scholarship. I don’t think I would forget that moment anyways, but having all the details written out makes me positive that I’ll always remember it.

If you don’t have a resolution for 2017, I encourage you to try writing a journal. You don’t have to write every day — though it is cathartic to write daily, and such a treat to be able to look back on specific days of your life. You could write weekly, or whenever you feel like it. The most important thing, in my opinion, is simply that you write. If you’ve never written a journal before, it may seem strange at first; but eventually it’ll feel as natural as typing out a text to a friend (and if it helps, just imagine that’s what you’re doing!).

Soon, day 366 will be here. And even before that day comes, as I begin reflect on 2016, I am so glad I have my journal to help me remember everything that happened this year.

What is Happiness?

Today is an exciting day, and not only because NASA announced that there is water flowing on Mars; today is the beginning of my week for The Happiness Project! This project was created by Sydney from Love, Sydney, with the goal of spreading happiness around the blogosphere. Throughout the week I’ll be writing posts for the project, and I wanted to start off by writing about my personal thoughts on happiness.

Happiness comes and goes, just like sadness does. It’s difficult to be completely happy every day, but you can find moments of happiness in every day. Happiness isn’t a choice – you don’t always have control over how you feel – but positivity is. Even if bad things happen, having a positive attitude means you will feel better about them.

You can choose how you act in any situation. That’s why, while happiness itself isn’t a choice, aspiring to be happy is a choice. You can decide to be positive, meaning you’re more likely to be happy.

As for what happiness itself is, it is different for everyone. Paulo Coelho probably does the best job of generally explaining it in his book The Alchemist. He tells a story of a young boy who was told that a wise man would tell him the secret to happiness. The young boy goes to meet the wise man, only to find that his castle is in the throes of a party.

The wise man instructs the boy to walk around the castle and observe its wonders. While he does this, he must hold a spoon filled with oil and try not to drop the oil. The boy walks around the castle, paying attention only to not dropping the oil. When he returns to the wise man, he realizes that he was so focused on the oil that he didn’t notice any of the castle’s wonders.

He is sent out again, this time focusing on all of the beautiful sights around him and not at all on the oil on his spoon. The boy returns, full of wonder but with an empty spoon. The wise man tells him: “The secret of happiness is to see all of the marvels of the world, and never to forget the drops of oil on the spoon.”

This week, throughout my own little Happiness Project, I will be trying to see the marvels of my world while remembering the drops of oil on my spoon. In the coming days, I will be writing about what made me happy on those days. Today, I want to hear your thoughts: what made you happy today?

How I Will Remember My Final Year of High School

A few months ago, during the school year, I was looking for an event on the calendar on my school’s website. After I found it, for fun, I kept scrolling through the calendar. I reached the virtually empty summer months, which led into the next school year. I wasn’t sure what was motivating me to keep scrolling, but I didn’t stop. Eventually I saw an entry on the otherwise calendar. When I read what it was, I froze. A week was blocked off for grad photos. In that moment, the reality that I would be graduating stunned me.

I have been at my current high school for two years (this will be my third), and I absolutely love it. Looking back, my time there so far has been an amazing whirlwind of positive memories. I know my last year will be equally amazing, but it will also be emotional. Because it will be my last year, I want to remember everything – including the small moments, like how the air smells in the morning on the way to school, and smiling at friends in the hall between classes.

Of course I’ll miss my high school, because I have had so many great memories there, but I don’t want to feel nostalgic about it. This year I want to be present in every moment so that after I graduate, I don’t spend so much time walking down memory lane that I forget to get out there and make new memories.

beallthere

I plan to be present wherever I am by doing several things. Firstly, putting my phone away so I can really focus on the moment; secondly, taking stock of details in my mind to document later. The keyword there is ‘later’.

Last year, I was at a leadership conference with some people from my school. I was having so much fun that at one point I stopped to write everything down in a note on my phone, right in the middle of the excitement. Looking back, I was glad I had documented the memories I was making – but I wished I had remembered the moment without my phone, until later when I could write it all down without missing what was happening.

Another way I can be present in every moment is to clear my mind of anything else that I am thinking of, and focus on what’s happening around me. Even in amazing moments (like that leadership conference) my mind tends to wander and think of random things. It will be challenging to train my mind to focus only on what is happening around me, but ultimately I think it will be worth it.

I am confident that my last year of school will be amazing, and by being present in every moment I hope I can make it that much more special.

The Daydreamer Challenge Day One: Why I love thunderstorms

Hey everyone! This is a post in response to the Daydreamer Challenge by the lovely Caitlin, a teen blogger (like myself!) who is doing great things in the blogging world! Today’s prompts were either nature, the beach, or blue. All of these prompts spoke to me in some way – I adore the beach (one entire wall of my room is a mural of the beach), for most of my life blue was my favourite colour, and I have so much to say about nature. I decided to go with the nature prompt and write about a topic that has been brewing in my mind for a while: thunderstorms.

daydreamernature

I have loved thunderstorms ever since I was little, when my dad explained them to me as the sky’s way of making music. Little Sherina could appreciate this, since I loved playing the piano and listening to music. When it thundered, I imagined giant drums being pounded on and clashing symbols. When the lightning came, I was captivated by the bright lights and jagged lines.

One night as I was lying in bed listening to a storm, I came up with my own rationale for thunderstorms. I imagined the sky having a big meeting: the thunder was the clouds getting mad at each other for stealing their chair. I don’t quite remember what the lightning was; maybe the flash of inspiration as the clouds brainstormed at their meeting?

As I grew older, I came to love not just the actual thunderstorms but also the process leading up to them. I love seeing grey clouds start to gather in the sky, and I love checking Environment Canada for weather alerts.

A few summers ago at my cottage, when I checked Environment Canada it echoed the same warning as the radio: that there was a tornado approaching. My family and I could see the clouds funneling over the lake and hear the vicious winds. The warnings eventually got so bad that we lured our cat into her carrier, grabbed our coats and important belongings and huddled in the laundry room.

Eventually the winds died down, and we emerged, unscathed. My sister was scared, and to her credit I probably should have been more scared than I was. My thoughts were something like, “wow, I can’t wait to tell people that I survived a tornado – this is a great story!”

Thinking about it now, the reason that I love thunderstorms must be that there are so many stories involved. As a writer, I love anything with a story. Nature has so many stories to share with us, if only we take the time to listen to them!

What’s your experience with thunderstorms?

My New Years Resolutions (One Month Later)

Back at the end of December, I wrote a post about my New Years Resolutions for 2015. Now, one month into the year, I decided it would be fun to reflect back on my resolutions and see how I’m doing!

Resolution #1: Challenge myself in my writing: check! This month, I have challenged myself in my writing by entering story contests, applying for writing programs and trying to write about topics I hadn’t previously explored.

I started another blog that I write with my cousin. It is a collection of letters on various topics that we are passionate about. Check it out at www.thefabletters.wordpress.com! I also challenged myself to step out of my comfort zone with this blog. I became active on Community Pool, took part in Twitter blog shares, and spent more time engaging in the community. My stats show the payoff in this resolution – it’s totally worth it!

Resolution #2: Volunteer more: check, for the most part! I have been volunteering at a local long term care home for 6 years now. However when I wrote this resolution I didn’t have a weekly shift, so I booked one this month.

I also volunteered at my dance studio and through my school this month. I would like to continue working on this resolution by keeping up with my current volunteering, and keeping an open mind towards any new opportunities.

Resolution #3: Improve at social media: um, kind of? I’m getting better at Twitter, but there are still some things I can’t figure out (like, why do people not get notified when I follow them?). I joined Instagram which was fairly easy to get the hang of, and I am in the process of sorting out my personal accounts and my professional accounts.

Resolution #4: Read more: check! I’m happy to say that this month I made a point of putting aside time to read. I have a growing list of books to read, and I’m considering joining Goodreads so that I can keep track of everything that I have read and want to read. Currently, I’m reading The Afterlife of Stars by Joesph Kertes.

Resolution #5: Keeping my desk organized: check! After some extensive research (on Pinterest, of course) I decided that the less things on my desk, the better. The only permanent fixtures are a lamp, my laptop, a double sided picture frame, my 2015 Memory Jar, my cactuses (cacti?) and a few of my favourite notebooks.

The main problem with my desk used to be that I had tons of sticky notes everywhere. Now, I try to write everything in my agenda. My master “to-do” list is written on a sticky note and taped to my desk so it stays put.

Resolution #6: To live life, laugh, and have fun: major check! January was a fantastic month for me. My brother surprised us with a visit from Australia, and we had tons of fun. We went skiing last week, and it snowed for almost the entire day which was great! I also rode in a limo for the first time ever, which covered all points of this resolution!

Something that I’ve been trying to do this year is keep track of all of the amazing things in my life. One way I am doing this is through my memory jar. Whenever something funny or exciting happens I write it down on a small piece of paper, fold it and stick it inside the jar!

All of the resolutions I have outlined in this post really contribute back to making memories and having fun.  I can’t wait to open my memory jar at the end of the year and remember all of the fun I had throughout the year!


Did you keep your 2015 Resolutions?